Brad Meltzer: 'The Inner Circle' Reveals Government Secrets


I sit on this a moment. He knows I don't like surprises. Most archivists don't like surprises. That's why we work in the past. But as history teaches me every day, the best way to avoid being surprised is to be prepared.

"Just tell me when she's here," I say.

"Why, so you can come up with something more mundane than Hello?"

"Will you stop with the mundane. I'm exciting. I am. I go on adventures every day."

"No, you read about adventures every day. You put your nose in books every day. You're like Indiana Jones, but just the professor part."

"That doesn't make me mundane."

"Beecher, right now I know you're wearing your red-and-blue Wednesday tie. And you wanna know why? Because it's Wednesday."

I look down at my red-and-blue tie. "Indiana Jones is still cool."

"No, Indiana Jones was cool. But only when he was out experiencing life. You need to get outta your head and outta your comfort zone."

"What happened to the earnest you're-so-proud-of-me speech?"

"I am proud -- but it doesn't mean I don't see what you're doing with this girl, Beech. Yes, it's a horror what happened with Iris. And yes, I understand why it'd make you want to hide in your books. But now that you're finally trying to heal the scab, who do you pick? The safety-net high school girlfriend from fifteen years in your past. Does that sound like a man embracing his future?"

I shake my head. "She wasn't my girlfriend."

"In your head, I bet she was," Orlando shoots back. "The past may not hurt you, Beecher. But it won't challenge you either," he adds. "Oh, and do me a favor: When you run down here, don't try to do it in under two minutes. It's just another adventure in your brain."

Like I said, Orlando knows me. And he knows that when I ride the elevator, or drive to work, or even shower in the morning, I like to time myself -- to find my personal best.

"Wednesday is always Wednesday. Do Not Change." Orlando laughs as I stare at the note on the Kissinger calendar.

"Just tell me when she's here," I repeat.

"Why else you think I'm calling, Dr. Jones? Guess who just checked in?"

As he hangs up the phone, my heart flattens in my chest. But what shocks me the most is, it doesn't feel all that bad. I'm not sure it feels good. Maybe it's good. It's hard to tell after Iris. But it feels like someone clawed away a thick spiderweb from my memory, a spiderweb that I didn't even realize had settled there.

Of course, the memory's of her. Only she could do this to me. Back in eighth grade, Clementine Kaye was my very first kiss. It was right after the bright red curtains opened and she won the Battle of the Bands (she was a band of one) with Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll." I was the short kid who worked the spotlights with the coffee-breath A/V teacher. I was also the very first person Clementine saw backstage, which was when she planted my first real wet one on me.

Think of your first kiss. And what it meant to you.

That's Clementine to me.

Speedwalking out into the hallway, I fight to play cool. I don't get sick -- I've never been sick -- but that feeling of flatness has spread through my whole chest. After my two older sisters were born -- and all the chaos that came with them -- my mother named me Beecher in hopes that my life would be as calm and serene as a beach. This is not that moment.

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